Skip to main content

tv   Lectures in History  CSPAN  August 31, 2014 12:01am-1:16am EDT

12:01 am
which is to mediate relationships between men and women, to mediate notions of gender, to rethink sexuality. and that's where we started last time, with ideas about masculinity. and the way in which there's a radical transformation of ideas about masculinity tied up with the emergence of the gay liberation movement, bound up in music such as glam rock, david bowie, lou reed, bound up in disco. as we said, in a sense, that music was inherently political. something that the really vicious anti-disco campaign drove home. so it seems to me we've started building the idea that post-'60s, american music still is politicized, still is engaged but in a different way, a way that rejected, as we saw with david bowie or we saw with mott the hoople, that rejected countercultural rock.
12:02 am
that's where i want to go today in talking, as i promised, about issues of women in popular music in the 1970's. we've already dealt with this before in thinking about the very limited place accorded to women in popular music as a business, as performers really with the idea that women play instruments, that they could only sing. we've seen that's deeply embedded in western culture, western ideas. and yet this is a period in the 1970's of real change in thinking about women. so there's an opportunity for us to say just as there was this political agitation over gay rights and over the nature of masculinity, what can we do with the emergence of feminism, of new feminisms, liberal, radical and what musical implications did they have? so i want to do five things. as i said, you should get your bets down about me getting through this. but i will. i have not lost yet. first of all, i want to think a little bit about the context. do you know this? it's familiar but let's remind ourselves of the way in which american society's relationship
12:03 am
to women, notions of women changed so radically with the emergence of what was then called women's liberation. we want to use that as a backdrop for looking specifically at music, four different settings here, two, three, four, five. first of all, with the thing that's the most stunning and yet we're ready for this, the idea that, in fact, countercultural rock, acid rock, whatever you want to call it, was much less radical in terms of gender than we would have thought. that in fact, arguably it was quite conservative. it was in the terms of this famous essay i've given you to start our assignment that it was cock rock, that it was completely defined by the needs of masculinity and almost completely obliterated the place of women. i want to look at the debates that emerged from that, the radical shift of perspective on rock.
12:04 am
it didn't really change either, as you'll see, the business hardly altered. and that sets the other three music genres we want to talk about in a different perspective. disco, again, subject of much contempt, nonetheless had a larger space, arguably, for women and the articulation of their concerns. even though you'll see once again there's a tendency to try to make that disappear, to explain it away. and then stunning to me, but we've built on this, too, country music which is supposed to be so conservative, so anchored in older notions of family, as we've seen in talking about country music in the 1950s or merle haggard's music in the 1960's. it's country that has this surprising space to articulate a kind of conservative feminism or country feminism. and it's summed up in that piece that gives this lecture.
12:05 am
-- that gives this lecture its title "your squaw is on the warpath," by loretta lynn, that i want to work through with you. though i'm not going to sing it. again, no costumes, no singing. that's my guarantee to you so we're never fully embarrassed. and then last i want to think about where a more open kind of feminist politics emerges in the '70s. it does to a degree in disco as we'll see, but the real place is in mainstream popular music which you could argue is the least adventurous kind of music in the 1970's. in musical terms, it's there that with helen reddy's hit "i am woman" that you have a stunning kind of breakthrough whose history is interesting and completes this picture of what is a very complicated response within music to the rise of the women's movement. and at the end i'm going to want to draw that together. but that's where i want to go here. and as i say, we'll start with what you know already but let's get a common point together from which to work here which is the emergence of new ideas, new activism among women that would lead almost inevitably as i want
12:06 am
to suggest to you to a new critique of popular music generally in rock music in -- a new critique of popular music generally, and rock music in particular. all of women's liberation is not a preparation for journalism about rock music, but that's going to be the key linkage. you know this. and history of modern feminism is very complicated. you see that in those sources that i gave you, and i won't take time to work through them. but in very simple terms, we're talking about a couple of basic sets of ideas here. and we can flesh them out as we go along. you know this. the first wave that emerges in the late 1950's, early 1960's, the so-called liberal feminism. liberal in the sense that it's a middle-class movement focused on demands for equality both in the workplace, equal pay, for example, for women. equality in the workplace and also the idea that women should have full representation politically, should have power politically, not just the vote.
12:07 am
liberal feminism, too, because these are women who believe that activist liberalism of the kind that john f. kennedy and even more so president lyndon johnson embodied, that activist liberalism government intervention could create equality just as it was doing in response to the black freedom struggle. the most famous founding figure you know is betty fordan, author of "the feminine mystique," arguing how ideas of women's equality get embedded in american society. she's one of the key founders of the national organization for women. now there's a sense of the urgency, now in 1966 that becomes the most important vehicle for liberal ideas. and one of the ultimate expressions of liberal feminism and one, of course, that would never be granted, an equal rights amendment to the constitution, the e.r.a.
12:08 am
changing government to promote equality. almost as soon as that emerges -- and this is what makes it complicated -- you have slightly later in the 1960's what people very quickly called radical feminism. middle class mostly to be sure, but somewhat younger women with roots in the black freedom struggle, the push for civil rights and also campus activism, a good number of campus radicals. radical feminists shared many goals with liberal feminists. what's interesting are some of the emphases. an emphasis on both public life and private life. the slogan "the personal is the political" sums that up. the idea that what happens in the intimate spaces of our lives, that that's political, too. as you can see from this course, that idea is one of the things that animates the idea that
12:09 am
music matters. that music is political precisely because so often it is about intimate relationships that often weren't traditionally considered political. some of you in my '60s class have heard me talk about this in another setting. but radical feminism is one of the most important intellectual developments in the modern world. not simply for the arguments about power relationships between men and women, but by redefining what's important. classes like this exist not just because aging allegedly hip baby boomers like me want to relive our youths. that does seem very important to me. but also because of the intellectual terrain opened up by radical feminism. part of this focus on the personal includes issues about male violence, especially in the home, about women's control of their own bodies, concerns about rape, forms of abuse, about abortion, which is, of course, a liberal concern, too.
12:10 am
it's radical feminists who also played more, argued more about the nature of feminine identities themselves and wanted a broader range asserted along the lines of the gay liberation movement that we've talked about, including a celebration of lesbianism that's relatively absent in liberal feminism. radical feminism is especially important for us to -- for its focus on culture. much -- many radical feminists zeroed in particularly on the importance of words and culture categories, ideas like beauty. the way people, mostly men, could use words to put people in their place. words like "whore," for example. categories like beauty. this is, of course, a famous moment. you've seen the pictures. this is the protest against the miss america beauty pageant in atlantic city, 1968 famous
12:11 am
poster that parodies what you see in a butcher store where a piece of beef is sliced up so you know what the cuts are. here's a woman presented that way. welcome to the miss america cattle show, cattle auction. so the idea that women are sold in part through the world of beauty and, of course, preabs. that concern on culture immediately gets us because it makes it very likely that in turn, radical feminists would focus on music. that they could see music as one more cultural area, one more set of categories that could be used either to denigrate or to celebrate women. now, they don't monopolize everything. these are truly radical ideas that are disturbing to people on a whole bunch of levels. so there's a substantial backlash. you know this already by the late 1960's into the early
12:12 am
1970's. there's an active anti-feminism, also middle class but culturally different. here's a big best-seller from 1973, marabel morgan's "the total woman." it's only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him that she becomes really beautiful to him. she becomes a priceless jewel, the glory of femininity, his queen. it produces a strong woman-led movement against the equal rights amendment to the constitution led almost paradoxically by an important conservative thinker, stop the e.r.a. you get the point. this is a very rocky terrain in which to think about music and
12:13 am
the place of women in music. even arguably more than in response to the emergence of the gay rights movement. the first response is here. it's from those radical feminists who thinking over culture, thinking over words, thinking over the power of words to put people in their place. you know, in the same way, say, that the "n" word was a way of putting african-americans in their place. it's feminists who first come to terms with music. and what they criticize is not so much country music, which you might have expected. not even, say, disco, which you might have expected. it is mainstream rock 'n' roll. countercultural rock 'n' roll. the biggest icons of '60s rock 'n' roll. i want to take some time to work through these sources that i gave to you. there's three of them. we've got three radical feminist critiques. or almost radical, of countercultural rock as a form of male privilege. that's obvious, and we want to work beyond it. in particular, i want to note a couple of points here.
12:14 am
one, in line with what we've seen this sense of disappointment in the '70s, you've got these women saying we've misunderstood the '60s. we need to reinterpret the '60s and not see it as some revolutionary liberating moment but instead as a continuation of the kinds of power relations of male domination that we've had in the past. and that ties, in turn, to their subverting the whole idea that the '60s represented some kind of revolution. instead, it becomes a weigh station toward the revolution that still needs to happen. so there's a very powerful set of ideas here and some real differences among them. but the question of how much impact is something we're going to need to gauge. the first piece is this one from susan hiwat. it appears in 1970 in "rat" magazine.
12:15 am
a feminist publication you can see here. you see women's liberation with the "rat" highlighted. it was anthologyized long after. she took the name susan hiwatt, which is a musical joke. it was a british company that produced amplifiers. the who used them, among others. so this is someone who's hiding her identity, but playing with already the rock 'n' roll world but more than playing it -- cock rock even now is a stunning title. for her, she describes it, the personal is the political. each one of these three pieces you see this personal journey that leads to a new set of ideas and a new set of attitudes. for susan hiwatt, it's this idea when she's growing up in school, in school, in college, rock 'n' roll was a generational thing for her. she saw it in those terms. not in gendered terms, not in social class terms, but as part of dealing with the gulf between young and older.
12:16 am
"it was the only thing we had of our own where the values weren't set up by the famous wise professors. it was the way not to have to get old and deadened in white america." so that's a common sentiment. we've heard that a bunch of times. but this is where she goes. "it took a whole -- it took me a whole lot of going to the fillmore," the auditorium we've talked about whose demise is part of this whole nostalgia for the disappearing '60s, "and listening to records and reading "rolling stone" before it even registered that what i was seeing and hearing was not all these different groups but all these different groups of men. and once i noticed that it was hard not to be constantly noticing all the names on the albums, all the people doing sound and lights, all the voices on the radio, even the deejays between the songs, they were all men." powerful moment.
12:17 am
and to her in turn that leads to the obvious conclusion. that rock represents the massive exclusion of women. it keeps them out. because in the female 51% of woodstock nation that i belong to, there isn't any place to be creative in any way. it's a pretty exclusive world. she says, there are no women electric guitarists, there are no women drummers, there are no women leaders of big rock bands, nothing. there are women singers, but as she says, they have to be twice as good just to be acceptable. just to play this traditional role that women have fulfilled in music. it's strongly argued. but it rests in reality. it's the reality that we started to talk about in discussing girl groups back in the '60s. as she says, to become the top of the heap in black music, aretha franklin "soul sister number one," she says better by far than anybody else, and there are not that many others of them. in rock, janis joplin. and of course, what precipitates this piece is the death of janis joplin, which we've mentioned
12:18 am
before. and she sees joplin's demise as this sad acknowledgement of what music does to you. she says, joplin for audiences was an incredible sex object, a cunt with an out of sight voice easy to fuck and easy to dismiss when she's dead. that's what drives underneath this anger in the reality of the narrow space that women can occupy. as she says what you can do to be a woman is strum an acoustic guitar. nothing powerful, no high-watt amplifier, strum an acoustic guitar, be like joni mitchell, collins. but you can't electrify, you can't get out of line, you can't get out of the line the way janis joplin did. again, borne out. she says that people who play guitars, the people who get to use the power of electricity through high-watt amps, are men.
12:19 am
male guitar gods like jimi hendrix -- also dead by this point -- jimmy page, do we really have to interpret this here? i didn't think so. again, as i said before, arguably the best female electric guitar player in the '70s is in the '60s is the bass player carol kay, who's a studio musician. nobody knows she even exists. she's on all of these hit records, no one knows who she is, no one even knows that a woman is playing bass on those records. that's susan hiwatt's point. deejays, i gave you the opening for this, deejays as we've seen have been a basic phenomenon mediating rock music from the '60s forward. and they're overwhelmingly men. the first almost sole famous woman deejay emerges just in this period in new york city on wnew fm, allison steele, known as the nightbird. there's her famous opening. "the flutter of wings, the shadow across the moon, the night bird spreads her wings and soars above the earth into another level of comprehension where we exist only to feel.
12:20 am
come fly with me." she's on in the middle of the night. daytime, when lots of people listen, it's all men. that's susan hiwatt's point about the world of rock. women are invisible. but it's more than that. she argues rock is fundamentally nasty, it's misogynist. here's truly where the edge comes in again. you feel when it she talks about what happens to the janis joplin, the flip side of it is when she describes the underlying attitudes of men. men who sing songs, men who write the lyrics. because when you get to listening to male rock lyrics, the message to women is devastating. we are cunts, sometimes ridiculous, 20th century fox, sometimes mysterious, ruby tuesday, sometimes bitchy, get a job, sometimes just plain cunts -- not common language at the time. radical language opened up paradoxically by the counter culture. here's susan hiwatt occupying this new space of language and
12:21 am
blowing up words and the way they're used to put people down. all that sexual energy that seems to be in the essence of of rock is really energy that climaxes in fucking over women, a million different levels of woman-hating. after all the groovy celebration of rock music, the '60s, the spirit of woodstock, this represents a really stunning shift in perspective. really radical. she also finally makes a point. she says, women are excluded but they're necessary. they still do have a role to play in music. women are required at rock events to pay homage to the rock world. a world made up of thousands of men. homage paid by offering sexual accessibility, orgiastic applause, group worship, gang bangs at alta mont, women are there to be worshippers of men and provide them with what they need.
12:22 am
so drawing it all together, susan hiwatt ends with the really striking point. that revolutionary as the counter culture seems to be, as much as it represented a blowing up of old values, as much as it represented an attack on capitalism, as much as it rested on the idea that property should be communal, think of the diggers and their ideal of a free city in san francisco. the exception is women. and so women remain the last legitimate form of property that the brothers can share in a communal world. can't have a tribal gathering without music and dope and beautiful groovy chicks. for the musicians themselves, there is their own special property, groupies, which particularly enrages her. so you get the point. there is a powerful set of arguments. she's not alone. there's a whole proliferation of this line of thinking which is why i've given you a couple more examples. the next one year later is from marian meade, a little older, a feminist, northwestern
12:23 am
journalism graduate. she wrote a well-known book a year later called "bitching," a summary of women's conversations about men, still really interesting. it's very susan hiwattish but it's the "new york times" folks. no four-letter words, much more buttoned-down. but she drives home the same analysis with a couple of really interesting points. one of them, again, with this project of rethinking the '60s, changing our understanding, her jumping-off point is woodstock. she says, you know, it finally dawned on me, not at the concert, it dawned on me when i saw the film a couple of years later, she says, finally dawned on me that this is a fantasy land that welcomed only men. how about the women? barefooted, sometimes bare-breasted, they sprawled erotically in the grass, looked after their babies, dished up hot meals. and of course it is interesting to see again how women are
12:24 am
portrayed at woodstock. there's the admiration. that's michael lang again on his motorcycle, one of the two key organizers of the woodstock festival. look at him soaking it in there. nudity, though, it's interesting. most of it is shared nudity. meade's point seems kind of selective to me. what's not selective, the thing you see over and over, is women and babies. you look everywhere for signs of men taking care of children. and you don't see it. women's basic role is have sex, conceive, and then maybe some nudity there. but taking care of children. meade's point is really well taken. and you can see why it would sink in. the other thing that she does is really build on this idea that the '60s revolution wasn't real. just like woodstock is a fantasy land. she says, we were told that the '60s was about the reconfiguration of masculinity. you've heard me talk about it. she's saying, nuh-uh, don't be fooled by unisex clothes, don't
12:25 am
be fooled by long hair, don't be fooled by the beatles. nothing really changed. all those things she says are just hip camouflage for the same old sexism, the same set of power relations that existed before. style changed. culture may have changed. but underneath, power didn't. in fact, she says the '60s were worse than the '50s. here you see how this feminist critique blows up conventional rock history. instead of being a history of progress, musically, culturally, politically, from the '50s to the '60s, instead she says, look, earlier rock didn't at least treat women in such a nasty way, misogynist way, such a false way. women were passive sexual partners to be sure. but not that passive. bitchy emasculators, that's counter cultural music. that's not the '50s, that's the '60s. the people who are most guilty
12:26 am
of it are the biggest male heroes of the '60s. bob dylan, the beatles, the rolling stones. so all of it blown up, including this idea that rock is a history of progress. the last one is ellen willis. you've probably had enough. i'm getting looks. but work with me. because these ideas, those of you who had to do this assignment, analyzing these sources, you know what i'm talking about. these are a little more complicated. so it's worth being careful and laying the foundation. ellen willis, 1941. pioneering rock music critic. here's a woman at the center of rock culture, she was the rock critic of the "new yorker" magazine for a number of years. also a feminist activist. she was a member of two founding radical feminist groups. the new york radical women, who helped organize that atlantic city protest against miss america, and then follow-up group, the red stockings. willis was a creative and original thinker across a range of areas.
12:27 am
she's really interesting for us because she liked rock music. there's much more struggle within the piece i gave you than there is in, say, cock rock or marian meade's piece. she is more positive. she says, before we succumb to another set of stereotypes in place of the old ones, she says, think about what rock did. insofar as the music expressed the revolt of black against white, working class against middle class, youth against parental domination and sexual puritanism, it spoke for both sexes. insofar as it pitted girls against all their conscious and unconscious frustrations it spoke implicitly for female liberation, implicitly, which is a big concession. for all its limitations, rock was the best thing going. so her stance is different. she's not as ready to give up on what rock was. but, like meade, she believes it's gone wrong.
12:28 am
she believes that it's gotten worse. there is an alarming difference between the naive sexism that disfigured rock before 1967 and the much more calculated, almost ideological sexism that has flourished since. what had been a music of oppression became in many respects a music of pseudo-liberation. it's an attempt to fool people, to fool women into believing that they're living a kind of freedom, when in fact their circumstances are the same as before. she also does, willis does one other really interesting thing that's striking given our own interest in the degree to which popular music tenthds to reflect -- tends to reflect outsider culture, outsider values, the way it's a music of people from the peripheries, on the complete outside of power. african-americans, white working class americans in particular. willis says, look, mainstream rock in the '60s, counter culture rock, is middle class music. it is the product of middle
12:29 am
class people. and not even just any middle class people, but an educated middle class elitist. she says something interesting. she says, men are contemptuous of women, yeah. but these men, these men, the elites who lead rock 'n' roll, they're contemptuous of everybody. they hate everybody. they look down on everybody. their attitude toward women is a part of that, is a product of their class and educational position. and she says also, they use women as scapegoats. they don't want to admit the middle-class culture they are rebelling against, that middle-class culture was a male product. men were in charge. so how do they blame women for representing those values? she says the misogyny of rock is based on class forces, too.
12:30 am
as well as these fundamental issues between men and women. now, the last difference and you can see this rooted in her affection for rock music, she says, 1971, things are changing. things are going to change. she believes that rock will open up to women. that the same kinds of expressive power that it's had for men could be used for more politically liberated reasons for women. she says there are more female rock musicians, more openly feminist ones. she notes one example in particular. the group joy of cooking which is a pun, you realize "joy of cooking," best-selling cookbook in history in the united states, everybody had "joy of cooking." so there's that domestic image of women. but joy of cooking, cooking in musical terms, playing hard, playing fast, swinging, rocking. so this idea that traditional domesticity has crossed over into the male preserve, cooking
12:31 am
of women, cooking of men in music. the leaders were two women, toni brown and terry garthwaite, she was an electric guitarist. from willis' point, here's a woman breaking into the world of male-dominated rock. they had their first album, capitol records. one of the biggest record labels, one of the four, five, six big labels in the u.s. they made two more. so she says, see, things are changing. now, i wanted to give you the other side to this. there's actually not so much. the neatest piece is from this priest of all people who writes to the "new york times" after he's read marian meade's piece and he says, you know, wait a minute, look. just a minute. he says, look, you're overrating the rolling stones, they're not as important as you think. you're misinterpreting bob dylan by picking his most misogynist songs and ignoring the times
12:32 am
when he has a much more redemptive view of women. and he says, you're misinterpreting the beatles, too. they're not so bad. and an interesting point, he says you're contemptuous of "eleanor rigby," a song we've spent a good bit of time on, why are you rejecting -- not the song, why are you rejecting her? if you're about sisterhood, why is it that feminist critiques of rock would condemn songs about female subjects? interesting. but not much. not much of an answer to these powerful critiques. but the real answer is here in impact. these feminist critics achieve a lot on an intellectual level. they subvert the history of rock as rebellion. they force you to rethink what exactly we mean by the revolutionary nature of the music. but in the process, there's a curious thing. and this is a final exam question waiting to happen, i realize this, actually.
12:33 am
there's something very similar about their condemnations of rock in the early '70s to the condemnations of rock 'n' roll in the 1950's. the idea that it's an inherently corrupting music. that it turns people into degenerates or outcasts. the terms are shifted here. but again, here's the ideal, that male rock turns you into bad people. it's rather curious in the end that this radical set of ideas is so close to the sort of conservative critique we've had in the '50s. something to think about and we'll build on. but all that said, as we'll see in the weeks to come, very little changed. for all of the optimism of ellen willis, women do not emerge as a major force in rock 'n' roll in the 1970's. not really. especially not really when you think about comparisons to other genres, which is what i want to do the rest of the way.
12:34 am
as i said, this is really surprising to me. but on reflection, it shouldn't be. first area is disco. disco, which we've analyzed largely in terms of its relationship to race, the influence of latinos in music. discotheques and the sexolets. african-americans like van and the hustle. we've talked about it in terms of male sexuality and its relationship to the gay rights movement. it's interesting to come back, we've come back to counter cultural rock, and consider it in terms of gender. what you have are a much larger role of female performers in disco. and i want to work through them. what were known as disco divas. you know them. major star, arguably the biggest star of disco, donna summer. born in boston 1948, so younger
12:35 am
than the critics we've been discussing. changed her name, ladonna gaines summer is the version of her married name. interestingly for us she was the front singer for -- the lead singer for a psychedelic rock band and left it. you would think for some of the same sense of reasons that animate the anger of those feminist critics. that there's a very narrow space for her. she becomes a disco singer. the queen of disco as she's billed. the 1975 breakthrough hit "love to love you baby." there's the cover. she had numerous hits into the early 1980s, including "hot stuff," which you may have encountered. another one is gloria gaynor, year younger, born in newark, another african-american. had the first really big hit disco album "never can say goodbye."
12:36 am
we've talked about the importance of dance and all of this, "never can day goodbye" the lp is famous for the first side, there are only three songs. we're not talking 2:30, 3 minutes like traditional pop records are we're talking long songs and club deejays would play the whole side of the first album. 19, 20 minutes of essentially uninterrupted dancing to three different pieces, all of them featuring donna summer -- excuse me, gloria gaynor. and then two years later, big hit, "i will survive." which you've heard, yes? it's okay, we're not going to do this as a group number, touching -- first this side of the room. ok. the last one makes the point finally. grace jones. again, notice the narrow age banding here. 1948, like donna summer. jamaican. looking ahead. when we talk about the origins of rap and hip-hop and the bronx, one of the things you're going to see, just planting this now, is the importance of caribbeans and caribbean migrants to the united states in creating this new culture. here's one of the first signs. grace jones had the hit, 1975,
12:37 am
with "i need a man." here it is. there you go. she was billed as the queen of the gay discos. there she, famous picture. notice the collar on the other guy. famous sequence of photographs of her includes this one with the whip. there's another one of her biting the whip. you get the point. very popular figure. a lot of women, we could extend this list more. especially in comparative terms. far more visible presence of women in disco than in rock. to deal with this i've given you another primary source which is this piece by the music critic in the "new york times" john rockwell, who says, straight out in almost kind of engagingly, bumbling, and helpful way for us, why are there so many women in disco? what's up with that, is his attitude. he says a number of striking things. he says, first of all, a high piping sound like the voice of
12:38 am
women suits the silly, partying mood and bounciness of many disco songs." in other words, unimportant music, something we've talked about before, unimportant people of course to sing it, natch. he also says, women singers suit the national mood of sentimental escapism. as he says, when the country doesn't want to deal with reality, it turns to the voices of women. it's really astonishing. you get the drift again. he's almost saying, women play such a big role in disco precisely because they're really so unimportant, so useless. and then his third act of dismissal focuses on the importance of gay culture within disco. without wishing to generalize too loosely about a gay sensibility, the fact remains that many women, especially ones with exaggerated feminine characteristics or particularly aggressive ones, have become
12:39 am
cult figures for homosexuals." and his prime example, as you've seen, is grace jones. so there's a funny kind of slippage going on here. where he's starting off with the idea, well, women are so important to disco, and you lurch your way through the article paragraph to paragraph and women are gradually becoming less important and disappear. in a way draws it shut. he says, look, after all, let's face it, men run the world of disco. men run the business of music. just as they have the labels, they have -- they run the production facilities, they control all of it. disco music is ultimately a producer's music which means men's music which means the exploitation of women to suit male fantasies, be they homosexual or heterosexual. so here he's -- instead of seeing the emergence of gay liberation, post-stonewall as a liberating thing, he's saying, no, men are men are men. at worst it's a puppet-like
12:40 am
acting out of a male fantasy of women as objects or slightly grotesque figures of exaggerated lust and dominance. you're excited but it's bad. you know, you're thinking, this is not good. it's almost -- it's really too simple. it's a very weird piece. it's smart, but it's this disappearing act. it's like a magic act. here's the rabbit. phoot, going to be gone. here are women, they're gone. they don't matter. it effectively erases all of these very visible disco divas. summer, gaynor and jones have no identity of their own. it's really striking because of the intensity with which those women portrayed, exuded, embodied, a particular kind of identity. but so, you know, john rockwell is light years away from the anti-disco movement that we talked about the other day. but he's engaged in the same kind of enterprise. of making it disappear. in this case, for different
12:41 am
reasons that have to do with women. also, it's too simple in the sense that he's making identity be one thing or another thing. art serves one purpose or another. a song is this or a song is that. which is striking for us because we've seen how in the world of glam rock, for example, identity is becoming this mercurial thing that shifts and takes new forms just as david bowie would take on a new appearance from album to album, tour to tour. gaynor -- gloria gaynor's "i will survive" was simultaneously known as a "gay anthem" for gay men, but also as a feminist anthem, too. that it was a -- one and the same time it spoke to men and to women. weren't you the one who tried to crush me with good-bye? did you think i'd crumble, did you think i'd lay down and die? oh no, not i, i will survive. different people could see in that something different.
12:42 am
and they could find a kind of community. the '70s is in part about breaking down these iron barriers between categories. it's as if rockwell wants to deny that. wants to make it go away. it can only be gay music, it can only be men's music. you get the point, then. for women to occupy visible, powerful space in music in the 1970's, just as before, was very, very difficult. almost close to impossible. then you hit this truly strange thing. which is to say by now we've come to expect that country music is different. that if you want a contrast to rock, it's different. if you want a contrast to the way power works, it's different. country music had lots of women in it. something we've seen before. mostly overwhelmingly singers. but weren't they conservative in politics? well, let's see.
12:43 am
there's a kind of paradox here, then. country conservatism. country women had more women star singers. they were full-time working women. they were women who balanced career with motherhood. they were women who, in a time when the personal is the political, made music that was personal. but the message that they conveyed about gender when they focused so much on women and women's identities, like dolly parton here, seems very conservative. if you're going to think about what's the music for marabelle morgan and phyllis shapley, if you wondered why i put them in in the beginning it's for this, this is the background music for "total woman," country music, which we've seen is reacting say in merle haggard against change in the 1960's. not that simple. two really good cases for you. i've given you these -- won't play the music for you now.
12:44 am
but first tammy wynette, rural mississippi, bounds, mississippi, 1942. a bit older than these disco divas we've talked about. she did songs, just the title you're thinking, oh, really? "you make me want to be a mother." absorb that. some of you are grimacing there. yes, i know, i know. you make me want to be a mother. "make me your kind of woman." which is sung to a man, by the way, it's not what you think. "don't liberate me, love me." you get the point. marabelle morgan's going, yes, dear, this was great. i was visited by a delegation of women, women's liberationists, who wanted me to change, wanted me to see you in a different way. she says, i didn't want to do it, i didn't want to do it, i know my job really is to support you and care for you. you are reading this going, this is conservative, isn't it? then at the end she suggests, that's because you need basically all the help you can get.
12:45 am
and that's when you begin to realize that something's going on in country music, as usual, that underneath the hairspray and the apparent convention, something's going on. reminds me a lot of patsy montana, the cowboy sweetheart we talked about in the 1930s, i want to be a cowboy sweetheart, i want to learn to rope and ride. you're thinking, gee, she wants to define herself in terms of a man. no, it turns out she wants to learn how to rope and ride from him then live a fairly independent existence. country's complicated. wynette is complicated. there's instead a kind of resistance on the part -- for traditional women. it's not radical politics, it's not pro-liberationist, nothing at all. your good girl's going to go bad. which is a song that says, look, keep behaving the way you do, my husband, keep doing what you do, and what you're going to end up with is me copying you. your good girl's going to want to go bad. you supposedly want women to be like this.
12:46 am
well, you think you really want me to be this way? of course the answer is no. driving home in the end the argument that what men really want is different from what they think they want, and that they'd better behave. complicated. your good girl's going to go bad. then the ultimate one. "stand by your man." number one billboard country hit. so big, big record. number 19 on the billboard hot 100. so again, the list that tracks sales across all kinds of popular music. huge hit. supposedly the ultimate in female submission. you know, boy, this is going to date me. talk about age. hillary clinton famously paints herself into a bad corner by saying that she's not going to be like tammy wynette and stand by her man. says, of course, the most famous stand by her man-er in modern american history. you wonder if she knew the lyrics, which are really fascinating.
12:47 am
i want to go through them with you. tammy wynette co-wrote this. billy cheryl. sometimes it's hard to be a woman, giving all your love to just one man. you'll have bad times and he'll have good times doing things that you don't understand. but if you love him you'll forgive him even though he's hard to understand and if you love him, oh be proud of him. you're thinking, oh, god, really? you're going to put up with him doing what you don't understand? because after all, the most famous put-down, "he's just a man." it's a stunning song. so it's saying, ok, stand by your man, but not because you're so inferior to men. stand by him because he's just a man. that's how country music works. so it's weird. tammy wynette said, i'm not a radical here, i'm not a women's liberationist. but over and over her songs are about pushing men toward a uniform standard of behavior and
12:48 am
they're framed by this idea, not all marabelle morgan that men are so wonderful, but rather, that they are so pathetically limited that you've got to make the best of it that you can. the other great example that gives us the title of this lecture is loretta lynn. again, beautiful example of outsider's music, the way in which country music remained deep into the '60s and beyond, music of a white working class. she was billed as the coal-miner's daughter, born in kentucky in the '30s in the depression, because that's what she was, her father was a coal miner. cultivated a very traditional image. here's an early publicity picture of her. she's canning. she's selling music by putting up preserves. in ball jars. that's how far they go in packaging loretta lynn as conventional. she married in 1948. do the math. pretty damn young. six children. here's a woman defined by marriage and family.
12:49 am
but as she says, because her husband urged her to do it -- not she herself -- her husband urged her, she becomes a singer, a full-time professional. someone with a career and who still has marriage and family life. she is enormously successful because she's talented but also because she taps into the same vein that tammy wynette did. of taking what is seemingly a conservative world and a conservative stance and inside it saying, ok, i'm accepting these ground rules, but i will push for change within it. early example of this is, don't come home a-drinking with loving on your mind. number one country hit for her in 1966. i was so excited i threw in another quotation mark, extra value for you. number one hit, we don't have to do the lyric, you get the point from the title. here again negotiation.
12:50 am
you want to carry on, you want that much freedom? no sex for you. look how conventional the cover is. that does not scream women's liberation. ala the 1960's. and yet the personal is the political. then you have your squaws on the warpath. what an album cover by the way, again what an astonishing thing, front and back. here she in a whole series of squaw scenes. when you download this you're going to get a look at it. also the way they write about her. here she is taking on still more of an outsider identity. in racial terms you can cringe. but she's actually doing the squaw thing, as you'll see, to do something fairly radical. very much in the performance of this, which i gave you, i'm not going to play it for you here today, the performance, she's standing there smiling. it's like merle haggard doing a kind of passive, ironic grin while performing "okie from muskogee." you're going, this is safe,
12:51 am
even bland, kind of dull. then you listen to the words. and again, that's a reminder for us. country music as we've seen has been more word-centered than most of popular music. again, in an age when radical feminists are arguing, pay attention to words, it's country musicians like tammy wynette and loretta lynn and the songs they're writing that are playing around with words and categories in new ways. these words are just stunning. well, your pet name for me is squaw. when you come home a-drinking and can barely crawl and all that loving on me won't make things right. you leave me at home to keep the teepee clean, six papooses to break and wean -- remember, six children is exactly what she's got -- your squaw is on the war path tonight. nice novelty song, you get the point now. he's using the native american language to reduce her, supposedly to a greater level of subjugation. well, i found out a big brave chief the game you're hunting
12:52 am
for ain't beef, get off my hunting grounds and get out of my sight. do i have to do it, hunting grounds for you? you're supposed to be hip, come on. this war dance i'm doing means i'm fighting mad, you need no more what was you've already had. in other words, you've committed adultery, which was a constant theme through these songs. your squaw is on the warpath tonight. all pretty good. and then she goes where as far as i know no popular song, certainly no number one hit in the u.s., had gone before. really just -- she's smiling. you saw it in the video i gave you. she smiles along and says, well, that firewater that you've been drinking makes you feel bigger, but chief, you're shrinking. you're with me there? we could break up into small groups and discuss what that means. but i am going to trust you on this. makes you feel bigger, but chief, you're shrinking since you've been on that lovemaking diet. don't hand me that old peace pipe. come on, come work with me.
12:53 am
don't hand me that old peace pipe, this ain't no pipe can settle this fight. your squaw is on the war path tonight. well, i found out a big brave chief, yeah, your squaw is on the warpath tonight. that is a stunning piece of work. and again, this is the way you push the envelope. she looks so conventional. she's dressed in this very sedate, middle-class, phyllis schlafly sort of way, smiling, strumming a guitar. yet she just completely undid him. the world's first mainstream reference to shrinkage ever. all conservative. two years later, by now with an enormous constituency of female fans, she does one of the first songs about birth control. the pill. look at the cover for the sense of this. very kind of wistful thing. all these years i've stayed at home while you had all your fun, and every year that's gone by another baby's come. again, her fan base knows, six
12:54 am
children for her. there's going to be some changes made right here on nursery hill. then in a really stunning image, you've set this chicken your last time because now i've got the pill. and the song goes on. kind of angry. and again, the song that's saying, all right, i'm not going to walk out of this relationship. but the balance of power within it has to shift, has to change. nobody in american popular music, mainstream, major hits, was dealing with this set of issues as continuously as loretta lynn. and of course she's seen as conservative, dowdy, all the rest by mainstream commentary. i couldn't even give you much discussion and primary source of loretta lynn because it's not there. john rockwell doesn't even bother with that. it's those country people, what could they possibly know? now, of course, to add to all of this naturally loretta lynn says
12:55 am
feminist, women's liberation, absolutely not. in the piece i've given you, you see this, too. i'm not a big fan of the women's liberation. the women's liberation. but maybe it will help women stand up for the respect they're due. neat, very nice politician's remark. i'm not in favor of this, though it might be a good thing. that's how you do it. that's how you push the culture while seeming to be conservative. we've seen this before. the beatles as we've said. if you smile and you're dressed in suits, you can get away with a lot. well, loretta lynn, same thing. so you get -- you know where i'm going with this. what we've seen is, then, astonishingly difficult, how astonishingly difficult it is for women to open up space within popular music to raise the sets of issues that are raised by liberal and radical feminism in the 1960's and '70s. as i say, ironically but not
12:56 am
really ironically, because we now understand the mechanism. ironically it's country music and disco that in certain ways advance women's issues more aggressively than rock ever did. and finally, to complete this, the most successful women's song, the most successful form of women's message music to go with the kinds of message songs we've seen, whether it's "eve of destruction" or "say it loud," "i'm black and i'm proud," merle haggard's "i'm proud to be an okie from muskogee." the most powerful message song comes not from rock but mainstream popular music. helen reddy, "i am woman." i gave you her performing that song. that is very conventional pop music. it's not hard edged at all. in fact, the critical response to that as music is pretty negative. reddy, again, a bit older. born in 1941. australian. interesting case of rebellion. she came from a show business family.
12:57 am
she hated that. her rebellion as she said was, i wanted to be a wife and a mother. instead of a performer like her parents. that's how she starts out. but eventually she realizes what she wants to do is to perform and that she wants to make it in the u.s. where she arrives in 1966. so 25 years old. she arrives divorced, a single mother with a 3-year-old child. so making -- balancing the things that loretta lynn was balancing, tammy wynette was balancing. she gradually made it as a singer. worked through a series of different styles. she remarries to a man who becomes her manager. they move to l.a. in 1971 she has a number of 13 billboard hot 100 hits so across all genres. i believe in music. but much as she's glad to have succeeded, she's become involved in the women's liberation movement, as she says, i was part of a consciousness-raising
12:58 am
group. a group of women who get together to raise one another's consciences by talking about the realities of their lives as women. building a notion of sisterhood. reddy said, i realized i wanted to do something musical about that. the result of this reflection beginning in '71 is "i am woman." and she says, you know, at first i didn't think of writing a song. i would have performed somebody else's song. i wasn't confident in myself yet as a songwriter. when i looked around i found only "total doormat songs" for women, that in pop music that's all you find, that there's not really anything there that expresses what she wants. so, she writes her own statement instead. meet history. it.o stations won't play and we have seen in the system of popular music, the business
12:59 am
of popular music, you needed radio play, you needed airplay record.eople to buy the radio stations think it is awful. completely male-dominated world. not just awful. they think it is sickening, this song. reddy comes up with an interesting idea, to grassroots build this record. what they do is go around to afternoon talk shows in the u.s., where there were talkshows for stay-at-home women. talk shows -- it is out of this world that, say, oprah winfrey's show would grow. here's reddy with one of the most famous ones, a show in philadelphia, "mike douglas." smooth, pleasant man. reddy would go on these shows, talk about her life, talk a bit about what led to the song, she'd perform it, and what she had hoped would happen happened. that women viewers would hear this and then phoned the radio
1:00 am
stations and say, why aren't you playing this song? i heard this incredible record, play it. well, the volume of calls is enough to gradually "i am woman" gets attention and it gets played and it takes off. because it's a very subtle song, actually. it does a couple of very interesting things. subtle song, actually. it does a couple of very interesting things. i am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore. and i know too much to go back and pretend cause i've heard it all before and i've been down there on the floor. no one's ever going to keep me down again. which is one of the most carefully modulated descriptions of the violence against women you're going to find. but people get it. i've been down there on the floor, no one's ever going to keep me down again. so it starts off with this
1:01 am
issue. yes, i am wise but it's wisdom for the pain, yes i paid the price but look how much i gained. if i have to i can do anything, i am strong, i am invincible, i am woman. and then, you can bend but never break me because it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal. i come back even stronger, not a novice any longer because you deepen the conviction in my soul. you're thinking, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. then really fascinating. so she started with this very subtle image of violence between the sexes and implicitly heterosexual relationship between sexes. i am woman, watch me grow, see me standing toe to toe. so growth pitted against a willingness to be aggressive and confrontational. as i spread my loving arms across the land. so women is love, nurturing, growing. but i'm still an embryo with a long long way to go till i'll make my brother understand. so a long that begins implicitly with male as potential romantic
1:02 am
opposite and perpetrator of violence, ends with the idea that a relationship between men and women is that of sister and brother. so not necessarily sexual. so as i say, it's a complicated song. whether you like the rhymes or this or that or the background, which is an interesting stylistic mix of pop music. the guitar backing is interesting too. but what's going on ideologically is really striking. this notion of pride. and that pain is deni grace or translated into strength. again, that violence is an issue and ultimately the relationship between men and women needs to be understood differently and in different terms. that's what popular music does. that's a very conventional thing. but this is a much less conventional form of that message. the male reaction to this is pretty striking. helen reddy is beneath contempt, she's a purchase vary of all that is silly in the women's lib
1:03 am
movement. boom, done. i gave you a really neat review. music writer in cleveland who writes on the eve of reddy turning up to perform, as an admitted male chauvinist pig in the one or two areas in which my own wife has not yet beaten me into submission -- speaking of images of violence -- i must admit the distaff$prlñ3çó libbem of sorts would normally raise my hackls. but miss reddy sings it so well that her modicum of breastfeeding or should i call that chest beating for the cause on that one song is fair enough. so one time, one time. it's like, just this once i'll let you sing "i am woman" and i won't puke, just this once. yeah. that's the reaction. reddy though was used to it. in an immortal moment she says, for a lot of men thinking about the women's movement makes them grab their groins. i didn't say we were going to cut their dicks off or anything, you know.
1:04 am
speaking of male violence. you can see mike douglas going, "yes, and now a commercial from dove soap." i love that picture of her. you do not find %zñ"mañx +zi pif hellie reddy where she's looking at you going, oh, yeah? but that's underneath all of this. okay. what can i say? number one billboard top 100 hit. so here's a song that radio would not play. that many men considered openly revolting. not just in the sense of being in favor of a women's revolution, but being sickening. in spite of all of that, number one hit in the united states. the following year she wins a grammy award for best female vocal performance and it is another fabulous moment, another controversial moment. she gets up and says, i want to thank god, because she makes everything possible." people go, what? she gets a ton of letters. as she says in one of her favorite ones begins, "you skinny blasphemous bitch."
1:05 am
abbreviated. usbb. skinny. and again, interesting. it's radical feminism that argues that notions of beauty are used to discipline women. to be skinny here is clearly to be somehow unfeminine. it's part of being a bitch. the history of this song is just stunning. and there she is accepting it. there's her husband behind her. you skinny blasphemous bitch. she goes from there, the united nations has its international women's year, 1975, which of course settled for all-time all issues about women's equality. that's irony. they have a symbol. they also have for the international women's year a theme song which is "i am woman." so again, this song becomes international on the basis of all of this.
1:06 am
the reaction by now is not so much for men who have gone, okay, my wife likes it. it is from a number of feminist activists who don't think she's radical enough. i spared you, i was going to give you one more source. ellen willis writes a review of helen reddy's work for "the new yorker." and it's this very twisted, convoluted thing of saying, i don't really like the music but her values are the right values but i don't like it and i can't really quite explain why i don't like it. and you're on page three of this going, ellen, just say it. but the saying it part, what's striking, gets us to the questions we've dealt with all along of how music can be politically effective. "i am woman" is really much of a piece with kinds of music that we've dealt before. there are no policy prescriptions. verse two isn't about, i don't
1:07 am
really like the wording of the equal rights amendment and i think they ought to redraft it, there's none of that. nothing technical there at all. it's lowest common denominator music, which is not a put-down, as we've seen. working on collective identity, on a sense of pride. we've seen this before. that's what's revolutionary about rock music and country music and aspects of soul and funk in the '60s. is this evocation of pride by saying, this is what unites us. this one is striking. even though it is i am woman, even though it seems so subjective, it's a collective song. it is about the group pride of women. and so it's a very familiar kind of music. it's what's driven message music across several genres. we've seen repeatedly that it's the political act of outsiders that rebellion begins with claiming a sense of pride, taking what's been offensive and
1:08 am
a put-down, turning it around and saying, no, it's the basis of my strength, i've been put down before. and that that pride in myself in turn is what begins to unite us collectively. say it loud, i'm black and i'm proud. as james brown puts it. merle haggard does this james brown does it. all you need is love. the beatles song for that first global television broadcast in '67 functions as the same kind of lowest common denominator value drawing together a group of people. as i say, what helen reddy does is very old in one sense and really quite conventional, conventional in many ways as music in performance terms. but what's different is it's done in the service of politicizing women. now, reddy's reaction to this, of course, is to say, i gave you this material, i'm not defined by that.
1:09 am
i don't do women's libber songs all the time. she says, i do a lot of other things. like, say, bob dylan. she doesn't want to be imprisoned in one identity. she knows she doesn't have to do it all the time. that in the terms of that cleveland rock critic, i'll let you do this just once, she knows to do it just once is to do a great deal. is to begin to change things. so that draws us together to this point. if we're trying to build an argument here about post-revolutionary popular music, after the supposed fall of rock, the place we end up looking is not in rock itself. it's among people who consciously pulled away from mainstream counter cultural rock, if you can use a term that counter cultural had become mainstream, who stood outside that. and instead respond to new kinds of imperatives. who respond to the ways about --
1:10 am
the ways in which the status of gay men has arisen as a political issue, the way the status of women collectively, lesbian, heterosexual, have emerged. they respond using these musical tools that we've seen emerge in the 1960s. rejecting the politics of '60s music in many ways but appropriating the kinds of tools. the weapons, the cultural musical weapons that had been forged in this musical cultural that they were rejecting. you get the paradox there. very, very effective. the third element in this, the third thing as we build forward, we've already seen this period of time represents an intensified sense of economic decline. we've seen that already in the music of merle haggard, working class centered music which already was registering. what deindustrialization would mean what stagflation would mean, the strange slowing down of the u.s. economy, including
1:11 am
hyperinflation. there's another line of transformation. and one that we've lived with for a very long time. just as we've lived with these developing notions of rights and new sexual identities that we've discussed these last two days. so the next pathway i want to take out of here has to do with the economy, the transformation of capitalism, the limiting of the opportunities that once had seemed so limitless that you could dream of a free city and free music and free rock 'n' roll. what if there's a u.s. that can no longer afford to have everything be free? that's what i want to do next. and we'll see as well how that builds on even as it opposes earlier rock culture. and with that, we're done. enjoy the rest of the day.
1:12 am
1:13 am
1:14 am
1:15 am

20 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on